Office 365 vs Google Apps for Work: Part 1 – State of Play

By Scott Gosling, National Practice Manager – Microsoft Solutions

One of the most consequential developments in enterprise over the last few years has been the transformation of the classic productivity suite into an end-to-end Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. The obvious example of this is Microsoft’s Office 365. Driven to respond to Google’s innovation in web-based collaboration and productivity tools – first with Gmail, and then with Google Apps for Business – Microsoft reimagined their foundational Office product line as a subscription-based service in 2011, and haven’t looked back.

Ever since, it’s been a major battlefront between two industry giants, each looking to be the premier Cloud-hosted productivity solution for enterprises of all sizes. Each company has innovated at a rapid pace, building on their initial offerings, with Office 365 seeing Microsoft move towards faster upgrade cycles and deeper product integration. Google has also made inroads into a number of key verticals with its rebadged Google Apps for Work.

Office 365 vs Google AppsPart 1 of this two-part blog series, looks at where each product has found its strongest support, and provides Data#3’s view of Microsoft’s renewed capacity for innovation. Part 2 will look at the latest updates rolling out across the Office landscape, and the implications they may have if you’re actively considering a migration to either Office 365 or Google Apps.


As it stands, the competition between Microsoft and Google is generating great outcomes for customers in a highly-mobile, Cloud-enabled world. Each are refining and improving their offerings in order to capture the market and consolidate their positions. Office 365 is clearly the preferred choice among larger enterprises. Four out of five Fortune 500 companies use Office 365 over Google Apps[1] due to its features, compatibility, scalability, familiarity, and its broader customer support offerings.

Despite Microsoft’s lead, interesting research has emerged from Okta, a mobility management and authentication company. Their findings show Google Apps for Work finding growth in the following industries:

  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Education
  • Software[2]

Why might this be so? It could be that Google’s early lead in collaboration tools drove early adoption in these areas, or we’re seeing the cost advantages of Google’s product. Another is that these industries employ a greater number of millennials, which according to Gartner skews preferences towards Google solutions.

Office 365 dominates, however, in the areas of Finance, Hospitals and Healthcare, as well as in Biotechnology, Telecommunications, and the Construction industries. Some reasons for the prevalence of Office 365 in these verticals may include:

  • stronger offline support for remote workers with Office 365,
  • compatibility with legacy or proprietary platforms, and
  • the more powerful capabilities of such core offerings as Excel, for advanced visualisation or data manipulation.

The clear takeaway is that organisations are choosing both around their needs, and their preference. They are also choosing based on perception, however. This is where Microsoft is changing the conversation.


Those who had passed over Office 365 for reasons of cost, or because they perceived a lack in its collaboration capabilities may be surprised at how much the pricing gap has closed, and how comprehensive its real-time co-authoring tools have become. Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business have been more deeply integrated, for instance, yielding further benefits. Similarly, the Office Everywhere strategy has made working anywhere, anytime simple for business consumers, with functionally rich web-apps as well as mobile versions available for iOS and Android. There is no comparison between the Office of five years ago and now.

The decision about whether to use Office 365 or Google Apps for Work comes down to a number of key factors:

  • your company’s existing IT investments,
  • what your required capabilities are, and
  • what your users actually want to use.

For many companies, the continuity Office 365 offers will have a significant impact on the ROI of such a decision, as significant adoption training can be minimised or avoided. Indeed, Gartner has observed that a migration to Office 365 from an on-premises environment is a far less taxing proposition for IT and users alike[3].

Ultimately, each platform has its strengths, and each are extremely capable productivity suites. Microsoft’s accelerated responsiveness has closed the perception gap considerably. In particular, Office 365’s collaboration tools are more intuitive and integrated than ever, and the richer functionality of its core offerings, particularly Excel, remain strong differentiators.

To chat to me directly about this topic, feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn.

Click here to read part 2 of this series, where we discuss how Microsoft’s cadence of innovation is solidifying their lead in enterprise.


[1] http://www.cio.com/article/2992546/office-software/why-companies-are-switching-from-google-apps-to-office-365.html

[2] https://www.okta.com/sites/default/files/Okta_Businesses_at_Work_March_2016.pdf

[3] Gartner, How to Evaluate Google Apps for Work Versus

Tags: Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Mobility



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